I spoke to the chair of the Maricopa County Democratic Party on Friday; she was on her way home from a sham hearing on the effects of the Affordable Care Act. She had gone to bear witness to the debacle and decry it for what it was: political theater from the word go, with reprobate conspiracy farmer California GOP Representative Darrell Issa abusing the majority party’s ability to conduct hearings. For this particular hearing, Issa hand-selected the most partisan of testimonies possible in order to drum up fear of the Affordable Care Act and hatred towards Democrats.
I applied to give my testimony and was denied. So instead, just yesterday, the Democratic Party held a press conference and I stood with my State Senator Katie Hobbs and spoke in defense of the law. I shared my own experience of being able to count the time to my ultimate demise in dollars and I explained how the law is so much more than a website, how there are problems with the law that we need to fix, and how we cannot move forward on any of it with one side apparently hell-bent on destruction.
This is consistently what we’re reduced to on one issue after another. From here in the populist wing of the Democratic Party- as cynical as this sounds- the modern Republican Party almost looks like performance art. They claim that government is too fundamentally broken to function and too full of incompetence to be trusted – and when elected, they “prove” it by shutting down the government, by appointing bureaucrats with no technical expertise whatsoever, and by nominating candidates who can’t remember what departments they want to cut. At the top of the ticket, it’s nearly comical to contrast the slick messaging machine that was Team Obama with the gaffe-o-matic Romney campaign. Down-ballot, though, it becomes readily apparent that it’s not a performance after all. Not for the locals: they really are this fanatical.
Recently, it came to light that Arizona Child Protective Services has been utterly derelict in its duty to protect and defend our most vulnerable children, and has also failed to honor its statutory obligation to investigate all child abuse reports in a timely manner. Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic published a list of children who had perished in their care. Yet Governor Brewer refuses to call the legislature into session to resolve CPS’s funding issues. Her statement that Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter was doing a “fine job” was eerily reminiscent of the younger Bush’s “Brownie” moment. Other Governor Brewer highlights:
Under the direction of Brewer appointee Charles Ryan, our Department of Corrections has been plagued with escapes, lawsuits, and suicides.1
The Department of Defense has called our National Guard “plagued with a lack of discipline, unethical behavior and fraud.” 2
Our state hospital is about to lose its funding because it does not meet minimum certification requirements. 3
The list goes on, seemingly endless, and yet the Republicans seem to be content spending their far-too-short legislative session campaigning from the floor of the House and Senate.
This can’t go on.
We Democrats need to embrace a message of solvent, responsible, and efficient government. Republicans have positioned themselves in such a way that triangulation is no longer just inadvisable- triangulation is no longer actually possible. There’s nothing on that side of the aisle with which to connect. It’s all sound and fury that signifies nothing. Republicans aren’t interested in governing any more (if this batch ever was), and we Democrats need to hold them accountable to the utter disaster that they put in place and into practice, regardless of the rhetoric they use. Moreover, we Democrats need to start confiscating that rhetoric from them. What the Republicans are doing to our state and our country is nigh on treasonous, and we aren’t doing our fellow Americans any favors by pulling our punches. We must stand and fight for Arizona, and for America. We must not only declare war, but march resolutely to it.
In nuts and bolts for the party, this means that we need to organize as though the primary were in March. This means our candidates need to be sharp and on message at every turn, from very early in the cycle. This means Democratic Party leadership needs to adopt an inclusive endorsement process that allows us to vet and vote on our candidates early, and that gives us the time to spin up a field program capable of marching on the gates of Hell. This means the party faithful need to accept the good where the perfect cannot be had, and reject the evil of personal public infighting which thwarts political unity and victory. This means the activists must find a way to move forward together. We must choose to address our criticisms between us in private, and to amplify each other’s grievances against our common enemy in public.
From where I sit, the attainment of this goal is tantalizingly, frustratingly close.
The flip side of populism’s coin is the admission that no union is ever perfect and no majority is ever total, no matter how close. Therefore, populism’s goal is not to ensure everyone is happy, nor even to ensure that anyone gets everything they want. The purpose of populist ideology is to move the ball forward for as many people as possible while damaging as few people as possible. This precept applies to internal party politics every bit as much as it does to every other corner of policy and politics. I know that what I’ve said here will alienate parts of the base – and perhaps even a few centrists. But I also know that over six thousand children have been in harm’s way- and still are, now- let alone the number of future children who will need protection. I know that one in four Arizona families has no idea where their next meal will come from. I know that as many as twenty five thousand Arizonans will sleep on the street tonight.
I know that we have to do better than this.
The price is simply too high to stay the course and refuse to reorganize and fight like hell. Continuing on as we have done before leaves the blood from this disaster of a government on Democratic hands every bit as much as on Brewer’s and Tobin’s. There will be time enough to settle our internal differences of opinion once the war is won- but we must win it first, or none of those differences will even matter.
My fellow Democrats, the question is not whether or not there will be blood: there will be blood. There is already blood. The question is whether or not we will come together and seek justice for the shedding of it. For the poor, for the sick, for the elderly, for the children, for those who have lost so much already and for all who stand to lose so much more- for the future, for the success, for all the hope and promise of our great state Arizona, there is only one answer we can give: all is never lost.
Fight on, Dems.